A tactical analysis of Chelsea Vs Palmeiras: Thomas Tuchel’s use of Kai Havertz in the half space proves key in final victory

Chelsea won the club world cup after a 10-year wait to get another chance at this competition thanks to a Kai Havertz goal in the final of the Champions League and it was the German who kept his cool again – this time from the penalty spot in extra-time – against Palmeiras.

Chelsea’s coach Thomas Tuchel had made a 3,400-mile journey on Friday to be in Abu Dhabi for the final, having tested negative for coronavirus. Chelsea under Tuchel now have the Club World Cup, Champions League, and UEFA Super Cup trophies, ahead of the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool.

This tactical analysis will break down Chelsea’s tactics; explain how Tuchal’s tactics made such a big difference to this match and made Chelsea the winning side in this final.

Lineups

Chelsea’s starting line-up (3-4-3): Édouard Mendy; Andreas Christiansen, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rüdiger; Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Callum Hudson-Odoi; Mason Mount, Kai Havertz; Romelu Lukaku.

Palmeiras starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Weverton; Marcos Rocha, Gustavo Gomez, Luan, Joaquin Piquerez; Danilo, Ze Rafael; Dudu, Raphael Veiga, Gustavo Scarpa; Rony.

How Chelsea and Palmeiras lined up on paper. Image courtesy of SofaScore
How Chelsea and Palmeiras lined up on paper. Image courtesy of SofaScore

Chelsea’s offensive solutions against Palmeiras

Tuchel started the match with the 3-4-3 formation; Hudson-Odoi and Cesar Azpilicueta (wing-backs) stay wide and high. Kai Havertz and Mason Mount drop into the half-spaces in the middle third to attract their man with them and to create a gap in Palmeiras’ defensive line. As shown below; Kai Havertz dropped to the middle third to be a passing option; he also attracted his man with him away from Palmeiras deep-block and created a gap in their defensive line.

Havertz and Mount role against Palmeiras
Havertz and Mount role against Palmeiras

It’s the same as the “inverted wingback” case, one of the midfield pivots drags the opposition’s wingback out of position & dismantles the opposition’s back 5 to a back 4 (where Chelsea are now in a favorable situation to attack). As shown below.

The inverted wingback case
The inverted wingback case

Inverted wing-backs sit deep to recycle possession and prevent counter-attacks. They sit in narrow positions, right in front of the centre backs, to give the team more options when playing out of defence. Wide fullbacks, and wingbacks, aren’t ideal when playing out of defense. Stuck out wide, with less room and passing options, they’re an easy target to close down. When being closed down, they became prone to passing backward and losing the ball.

Chelsea players kept their lines high and close, they also overloaded the central channels with two players, this helped them find gaps in the half-spaces as shown below.

Chelsea players kept their lines high and close
Chelsea players kept their lines high and close

Chelsea players also overloaded the half-spaces with several players. The half-spaces is the spaces between the centre and wings, it results in a different view of the strategic and tactical peculiarities of the game: the fields of view are one aspect.

In a central position, with both teams standing right in front of the goal, the fields of view are both vertical. For positions in the half-spaces, however, the fields of view are not vertical, but diagonal. A player in the half-space has as many options as the central player but doesn’t have to turn away from the center and play to the side, instead of maintaining a diagonal, goal-facing view of the field in his passing game. And that is what Tuchel wanted by overloading the half-spaces, there was at least one player away from the pressing structure as shown below.

Chelsea overloaded the right half-space with three players
Chelsea overloaded the right half-space with three players

Chelsea’s defensive style against Palmeiras’s transitions

When Chelsea’s players were in the defensive phase, they lined up in a 5-2-3 formation in the mid-block. Havertz, Mount, and Lukaku stayed high, Kante and Kovacic in the central channels, Azpilicueta stayed low while Hudson-Odoi stayed high to block the counter full-back from advancing, while Rüdiger covered the space behind him, as shown below.

Here is an example of how Chelsea mannered in the defensive phase
Here is an example of how Chelsea mannered in the defensive phase

Chelsea had some issues of stopping Palmeiras transitions from the start of the match, but the overall picture was that the three defensive line mannered on a straight line. As shown below, Chelsea’s defence trio lined up on one line.

They dropped Palmeiras players into the offside zone, while Rüdiger tried to close the passing options in front of the ball carrier.

 Chelsea players dropped Palmeiras players into the offside zone
Chelsea players dropped Palmeiras players into the offside zone

Conclusion

Chelsea won the club world cup after a 10-year wait to get another chance at this competition, Chelsea’s coach Thomas Tuchel joined the group on Friday after he tested negative for coronavirus, Chelsea under Tuchel now have the Club World Cup, Champions League, and UEFA Super Cup trophies, ahead of the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool. They are on the right way under the German coach.

Written by Mustapha Hassan (@mostafa_1O)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

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